July 21

The Impact of Listening, Love, Compassion and Kindness

By Rick Banas of Gardant Management Solutions

A few Fridays ago, a package unexpectantly arrived at our front door. Inside, was a book and a letter.

The letter noted that for the past two decades, J.P. Morgan has developed an Annual Summer Reading List that took into consideration the global interests and diverse passions of its clients.

This year, with all of the challenges we are facing in our world, the list was expanded and features a collection of titles that focus on the themes of resilience, compassion and change. The list includes “Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know about the People We Don’t Know” by Malcolm Gladwell; “You’re Not Listening: What You’re Missing and Why It Matters” by Kate Murphy; and “Friendship: The Evolution, Biology, and Extraordinary Power of Life’s Fundamental Bond” by Lydia Denworth.

The book inside the package that had been selected for me from the reading list was “Together: The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World.” The book was written by Vivek H. Murthy, M.D., who served as the 19th Surgeon General of the United States from December 2014 to April 2017.

Given what Gardant does in the world of senior living, assisted living and memory care and all of the research that indicates that social connectivity is an important element to healthy aging, the book was the perfect choice.

In “Together” and in an interview about the book on “The Oath with Chuck Rosenberg,” Murthy persuasively contends that loneliness and disconnection are important factors in so many of the challenges we face in society today, from chronic disease to addiction, the opioid epidemic, violence, satisfaction and retention in the workplace, how children do in school, and political polarization.  Click here for a link to the interview. 

In the book and the interview, he highlights personal stories of being shy, feeling lonely, being bullied and lacking in self-confidence. Also featured are stories that illustrate the struggles of others and what individuals and communities have done to help address the issue of loneliness.

Murthy talks about how he ignored the political pressures to, immediately after his confirmation as Surgeon General, start doing things because of the perception in the political arena that you are judged by what you do in the first 100 days. Instead, he began his tenure as Our Nation’s Doctor by going on a listening tour, visiting big cities and small towns across the U.S. and asking how we can help. As he explains, you cannot fully understand what is needed by reading reports and relying on personal experience.

As a result of the listening tour, he changed his game plan and made a focus on loneliness his top priority. Why? Because loneliness was a common thread to what he was hearing.

As he notes . . .

Loneliness is both a cause and a consequence of chronic illness.   

There is a difference between loneliness and isolation. Isolation can be healthy if it equates to solitude; an opportunity to pause from our fast-paced world; to relax; mediate; self-reflect.

Our society bombards us with ideals that are seldom achievable such as money, fame, and good looks.

What really matters in life are strong relationships. Our greatest moments of joy and our greatest memories usually involve other people, not money or status.

Unfortunately, doctors today spend much more time with electronic health records, in front of computer screens and with paperwork than with patients.

Finding purpose is important; you also need to take action. Volunteering can make a difference.

He stresses the importance of love, compassion, a culture of kindness, and taking time to pause and actually listen. Right before the book’s conclusion, he includes a letter that expresses his hopes and dreams for the world our children will inherit. At the heart of living a connected life is love, he says.

He believes we have the ability to change, person by person and interaction by interaction.

I am confident that you will find reading “Together” and listening to the interview on “The Oath with Chuck Rosenberg” enlightening.

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